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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Steven Furtick » Steven Furtick - Fighting For Encouragement

Steven Furtick - Fighting For Encouragement

Steven Furtick - Fighting For Encouragement
TOPICS: Encouragement, Discouragement

Got something today that was a little bit of a mind shift for me, reading about the story of Hannah when she was unable to conceive and her rival Peninnah would provoke her every day. In 1 Samuel, chapter 1, it says she would refuse to eat, and her husband, Elkanah, kept trying to feed her. You know, "Hey, I'm going to bring you a double portion," because the Bible says the Lord had closed Hannah's womb. In this time, they saw things pretty clearly. They saw a closed womb as being from the Lord and an open womb as being from the Lord. Typically, this particular Israelite conception of God's favor was if you are able to conceive, you're blessed; if you're not able to conceive, that's a curse. They associated all kinds of things with… The ability to bring life was a sign of a righteous relationship with God, a sign of God's favor, a sign of God's pleasure. The inability to produce life, whether that was the land or whether that was human life, would be seen as a sign of God's displeasure, God's punishment, a consequence of sin.

So, you see that show up a lot in the different writings, not only of the prophets, but you see it kind of all throughout the stories of the Old Testament. Then when we come into the New Testament, we find out that Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly, not to kill, steal, and destroy. That's what the thief does. So, we see this progression of the idea that not only does life come from God in that we're given life by God, but life comes from inside of us when we're in relationship with God, that we're able to bring life and bring joy and bring ideas and bring opportunities and bring partnership and bring encouragement and bring inspiration when we're in a place of connection with God.

So, I was reading Hannah's story today about how the Lord enabled her to conceive and give birth to a son, who was Samuel, a prophet like whom there has not arisen one since, who did amazing things for the nation of Israel, in the nation of Israel. None of his words fell to the ground, the Bible will say. But he started out as the product of a woman's womb that had been barren year after year after year. The longer it went on that she was barren, the more she became distressed and disappointed, until it got to the place where her husband was like, "Don't you love me? Why can't I make you happy"? See, it wasn't him she was unhappy with. It was the inability inside of herself to produce something she had a desire for. Will that not preach to us?

When we want something, when we want to get above something or past something, but we can't; when we want a certain type of experience, when we want a certain type of feeling, when we want to be able to make a certain type of difference, but we can't. Sometimes our desires are not all that noble. Sometimes we want something we can't afford or want something to get easier, and it won't. Then sometimes a desire is given to us by God, and when the desire is conceived in your heart and in your spirit, it becomes very powerful. It can become dominant to the point that everything else in your life is overshadowed by this one desire.

I've met people before who wanted to be married more than anything else. I've met people before who wanted their marriage to get better more than anything else, people who not only wanted to have children but wanted something in the life of one of their children, people who were desiring healing for their body or someone they love, people who were desiring clarity, people who were desiring peace. On the other hand, the Bible talks about evil desires, and that's something we could spend a whole devotion talking on. Here, though, I don't see an evil desire from Hannah. I just see the Evil One trying to discourage her about a desire she has that has not yet been delivered. She has not yet been able to conceive a child. I use the word yet, because since we're reading the book called 1 Samuel, we know that something is going to happen.

Hannah is crying, and she's in anguish in this season, but we understand that this season we're seeing Hannah in is going to give way to Samuel, the one who she already has the potential to bring forth. It's inside of her, but it's waiting on the moment for God to speak the word and open her womb, and she's going to bring forth. She doesn't know that, though. That's the hardest thing about discouragement. You don't know that there is a tomorrow, and you certainly don't know that there's a better one ahead. You don't know if tomorrow is literally tomorrow or if it's 10-years-from-now "tomorrow". These elements of time… I was talking to a friend the other day about how disappointment operates on the basis of time.

If you take time out of the equation, it becomes more difficult for the Devil to disappoint you, because you can show up and know, "Okay, I prayed for that today" or "I prayed for that in this area, but God is the Lord of the harvest. It's on his timetable. I trust him with the timing. He has trusted me with this task. I trust him with the timing. He has trusted me with this task. My task is to trust him and to do what I can today with what he has given me". That mentality leads to a lot of freedom. That mentality leads to greater faith. Okay, it may be today. It may be today, or it may be that today something else I didn't even pray for comes out of the…let's call it the garden…of what I asked God for that he didn't do yet that will actually become more important than the thing I asked for.

I could go off on that, because yesterday I did a key verse about how Boaz bought the land and redeemed the land, but he also got Ruth. I did a whole devotion on the "God of also". I'll teach it here sometime soon if I don't preach it in the pulpit first. It was such a good word for me. The God of also. Many times, what we call also is God's top priority. Like, "If you redeem the land, you also get Ruth". Of course, Ruth became the great-grandmother of David, and David was, of course, the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-(28 times) grandfather of Jesus. Anyway, sidenote…God of the also. In this passage, you have a woman who is very frustrated. It hasn't happened yet. It looks like it never will. She goes to the temple with her husband, which they would do yearly. She's praying before the Lord, and Eli sees her. She's praying, but no sound is coming out, so he's like, "She must be drunk". She's like, "No, you misunderstand me. You're watching my actions, but you don't understand my anguish".

A lot of times, people judge you by your actions. They have no clue the anguish that produced those actions. You even judge yourself by your actions. "Man, why am I so stuck? Why am I so messed up? Why am I so screwed up"? Well, a lot of times, that's coming from a place of anguish, from a place of desperation, from a place of "I don't know what else to do," from a place of "I don't feel like anybody hears me. I don't feel like anybody sees me. I feel like God has forgotten me. I have a closed womb". The verse I chose for my key verse today from 1 Samuel 1 is where, after Hannah says, "I'm praying out of great anguish and grief," Eli answers (verse 17), "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him".

Look at verse 18. "She said, 'May your servant find favor in your eyes.' Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast". Verse 19: "Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time…" What a phrase. We talked about the course of time sometimes leading us to disappointment because it's taking too long. But the Lord said if you take the element of time out of the expectation and go, "Man, I right now am believing God…" "So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, 'Because I asked the Lord for him.'"

Here's what I want to point out. The Bible says she did something after Eli said, "Go in peace. The Lord will grant your request". She did something after Eli said that that she didn't do when Elkanah came back from the temple other times, other years. She didn't wait to do it after she found out she was pregnant. She didn't have a pregnancy test and then do this. She did this after she received the assurance that she would have what she had asked God for. It's very simple. Verse 18: "Then she went her way and ate something". Now, the timing of this is very important. She didn't eat something after she found out she was pregnant. No. She ate something after she received the confirmation from Eli, who represented God's house. After she received the word that it would be fulfilled, that she'd have a boy, she went her way, and she ate.

So I wrote down this phrase: "I ate because I asked". "I ate because I asked" or "I ate after I asked". Here's what I'm using that to mean. Let me make sure it's not some mystical "Woo, woo". You're like, "Yeah, she ate". Yeah, but she didn't eat the other times she prayed. She sat in anguish. But this time, when she prayed, and her lips were moving, but her mouth wasn't saying anything… Eli said, "Are you drunk"? and she was like, "No. I'm in anguish". Then Eli said, "Go in peace. The Lord has heard your request". She went away, and her face was no longer downcast. She ate. She went on her way, and she did the thing that she would do if she believed God's word was true. The word of God said, "It's going to happen". She got up even before being intimate with her husband. That happened the next day, but that day she ate. She ate by faith. She ate believing that she had found favor. She asked for favor, the word of God came, and she ate. She asked, and then she ate.

A lot of times, we're in a state of torment. We're calling it prayer, but really, we're just in a state of anguish and confusion. Look. The Devil can use it to discourage us to an even worse place, because all we're doing is just asking God, "Please, please, please, God, make it better. Make it stop hurting. God, God, God, God…" Our prayers sometimes sound like, "I'm so sorry, God. I'm so sorry. I'll do better. I'll do better. I'll do better, make a change". I think something shifted not only in Hannah's expectation but in her energy. She got up, and she was like, "I've got it even before I've got it". Now, you get into a lot of extremes with this kind of teaching, and that's where they have it called… For "name it and claim it" theology, they say, "We can't just name it and claim it or blab it and grab it".

I'm sure you've heard all that before. Well, I'm not talking about "blab it, grab it" or "name it, claim it". I'm talking about walk in the word God gave you and do the thing that you would do if you believed it was true. Like Hannah. She got up. She went in. She was intimate. Ooh, one thing God showed me this morning is sometimes your fear of intimacy keeps you from conceiving what God wants to do in you. It keeps you from conceiving in your mind because you don't want to sit with anything long enough. It keeps you sometimes from conceiving anything in your relationships. It keeps you from taking the desire and making it known and seeing it fulfilled in your life. But something so simple as that little detail, I think, will give us a mindset for how we need to approach today. She asked, and then she ate. She asked, and then she ate. It's like Elijah lying down, and the angel comes and is like, "Get up and eat something".

When I think of eating something in this context, I think of what we feed ourselves. You know, the joy of the Lord is our strength. I think of getting up in seasons of our lives and believing that if we're praying for God to bring about something in our lives, we then kind of get in the mindset and get in the movements and get in the rhythms of what that's going to look like. If we're believing God to do something in our lives, let's be the kind of person who looks like we believe it. Let's not ask God to send us opportunities, but we can't find our work gloves. Let's not ask God to send us people, but we're very petty, and even the people he sends we run out of our lives. It's like a state of preparation. Ask and then eat. But also, it's a little bit deeper than that, because sometimes we ask God…

I remember thinking about the song we sang a lot in my church growing up. Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place, I can feel his mighty power and his grace, I can hear the brush of angel's wings, I see glory on each face, Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place. Sometimes you look around and are like, "Glory on each face? I see gloom on a lot of faces". And that's okay. I have that RBF sometimes too, that resting believer's face. Ooh, RBF would be good. I've used it before, but never with believer…resting believer face. What does a resting believer face look like? Hannah before had this anguish that was making her act a certain way, and then after she heard the word of the Lord, she had this resting believer's face. She acted on the word she heard. She acted as if it had already happened. She acted her way into activating the word God gave her. She acted her way into intimacy with Elkanah. She acted her way into the next season of her life, and then she weaned the boy and brought him back when he was ready, and he served in the temple. She gave back to God what God had given to her. But the first thing she did was she got up and ate.

So, you're asking God for some things. Right? Or maybe you've stopped asking. You need to ask again. Ask and then eat. Don't ask and then get up and just stay in anguish about it. Ask and then eat. Ask and then feed your faith with the Word of God. Ask and then ask others to help you with it. Ask and then eat. Don't ask and then starve. You're not going to get anywhere. You're not going to step into anything. You have to ask and then eat. What's interesting is when the passage began, Hannah was definitely… She was not eating; she was being eaten. Sometimes I allow things to eat me because I won't eat what I need to eat.

So then my disappointment ends up eating me because I won't get the Word of God in my heart. I won't listen to a podcast that's going to give me perspective. I won't read something that's going to lift me up. I won't have conversations with healthy people who are going to challenge me to be a better self. I won't eat, so it eats me. I guess the title of this one is Eat or Be Eaten. Eat God's Word, which is living and active, or be eaten alive by anxiety and anguish and thoughts of what didn't happen. Eat gratitude and sing songs of joy and make a decision to do the thing that you would do. Lift up your countenance and lift up your eyes and bring something wonderful into the world for the people you love, and even for yourself, for the glory of God. Offer the life and the breath he has given you back to him. Eat or be eaten.

You have a choice to make today. Will you eat what God put right by your head, Elijah, and go on your journey? Will you get up and eat and believe that what God said is going to happen in the course of time or will disappointment chew through your dreams and your future potential to develop what God has placed in the soil of your heart right now? Are you going to let disappointment chew through your destiny another year or are you going to get up and eat? Eat or be eaten. I want to be like Pac-Man, going through life gobbling up pellets of praise, gobbling up pellets of purpose, gobbling up the promises of God. Sometimes I don't do too well, so then they come around and get me. Boom! Boom! Boom! I get eaten. I want you to see that picture today. Do you like the Pac-Man picture? This is a little bit dated illustration, but it is very visual for those of us who grew up around arcades. Eat or be eaten, and move and keep moving, because God wants to make you stronger, and God wants to bring forth awesome things.

God wants to open your womb, but if you just worry, worry, worry, worry, worry, your womb won't open. If you take his Word, get one promise… I had one today. I put it on a Post-it note. I looked at it. I let it eat the anxiety away from me so that the anxiety didn't eat me. Eat or be eaten. Take God's Word. "Take this scroll. Eat it". It was like honey. God wants to give you something sweet today, not that you stay in the bitterness of your rival provoking you. Hannah had previously been praying in the energy of her enemy. She saw her rival Peninnah was able to conceive and she wasn't, and she prayed out of that energy. I think something shifted when she switched her energy, and she was like, "I'm going to eat. I'm going to go and be intimate with my husband. I'm going to worship the Lord," and she conceived.

You can too. Maybe not tomorrow, but in the course of time, if you don't let it… You've been letting things eat at you because of what you won't eat. Eat this Bread of Life. Eat this Word of God. Take it in. Oh, you'll feel so much better. You know the Snickers commercial. "You're not you when you're hungry". You're not you when you're Hopeless Hannah. Get up and eat. God is going to do some great things in my life today. How about you? I'm excited to see it. I'm going to eat today. I'm going to eat believing that what he said to me he's going to do. I'm going to go into the situations that produce, not the ones that bring death, and I'm going to live this day blessed. All right. Go get you something to eat.
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